Chicago, IL (PressExposure) January 09, 2009 -- Ex-Offender Leads Innovative Prisoner Re-Entry Reform Program Model Program Decreases Recidivism
"We need more James Colemans!" said U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis, a national leader in prisoner re-entry reform, who was the keynote speaker at the first state-wide reporting session on prisoner re-entry, December 16th, 2008. The model program, originating at the Sheridan Correctional Center, has now expanded into six locations across Illinois, thanks to the efforts of Reverend James Coleman.
Coleman, a former offender himself, received his spiritual calling while in prison, and now serves as Statewide Coordinator of CSAC (Community Support Advisory Council) for the State of Illinois.
Coleman was instrumental in developing the successful CSAC model program while at CSAC West. Since then, he has trained and supervised its six state-wide programs. On December 8th, Coleman received the C.A.R.R.E. Visionary Award by the Council of Advisors from the State of Illinois legislature for his impact in reducing recidivism through employment.
The Sheridan model has proven extremely successful since its inception in January, 2004. It has drawn interest from penal systems across states like California, Iowa, North Carolina and Florida and a few foreign countries like Japan. The Sheridan Model innovatively called for Community Support Advisory Councils (CSAC) to identify and address barriers to successful transition from prison back into society. These councils also act in an advisory capacity to Illinois Dept. of Corrections (IDOC), in order to influence future policy regarding re-entry.
As one of the original CSAC workers at Westside Health Authority, the parent agency for CSAC West, Coleman recognized the need for a support group. He wanted to help those in the community facing difficulties, such as parolees, their families and loved ones. As a result, Coleman developed the Overcomers Support Group, which meets regularly on Chicago's west side to allow individuals the chance to talk freely and be supported by a group, including community members.
Coleman quickly rose to the position of Director of Prisoner Re-Entry at Westside Health Authority. Tapped to become the Statewide CSAC Coordinator, Coleman has expanded the Sheridan model into new areas - Uptown, Decatur, Springfield and Marion, as well as overseeing CSAC North, South and West. Coleman has also been involved in supporting a new program at the Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center in East St. Louis. This program needs more funding, and has the added component of focusing on methamphetamine addicted inmates, in a 250-bed facility.
"We are working together for the common good of all people," said Coleman. "As Barack Obama says, 'All things are possible... and yes, we can!'"
Reverend Coleman travels widely, meeting with politicians, wardens, inmates, community members, service providers, parolees, family members and others interested in prisoner re-entry, in order to advocate on behalf of formerly incarcerated individuals. He met President Bush and other national leaders at the White House Faith-based and Community Initiative Conference in Washington, D.C. in June, 2008.